HAVE YOU NO­TICED how gas prices at the pump are up? Blame ris­ing ten­sions in the Mid­dle East.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kyle Arnold Staff Writer karnold@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com or 407-420-5664

Gas prices are up 21 cents in the past week as Amer­i­can thirst for petroleum re­mains high even af­ter sum­mer driv­ing sea­son ended.

The cost for a gal­lon of reg­u­lar un­leaded fuel was $2.50 in the Or­lando met­ro­pol­i­tan area Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge. That com­pares to a re­cent low of $2.29 on Hal­loween.

It’s a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment af­ter prices dropped steadily for nearly six weeks af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma sent Florida gas prices into up­heaval.

Ex­perts say the cause of the re­cent in­crease is un­usu­ally high de­mand for fuel in the fall and ten­sions in the Mid­dle East.

Crude oil was trad­ing for just un­der $57 a bar­rel on the New York Mer­can­tile Ex­change Mon­day. That’s a re­cent swing up af­ter oil prices have hung un­der or near $50 a bar­rel since May. Ten­sions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia, Iran, Ye­men and Le­banon have led traders to be­lieve the sup­ply of oil may be re­duced if con­flict starts. OPEC lead­ers are also set to meet next month to consider if there should be an­other throt­tling of sup­ply.

AAA re­ported this week that de­mand is at the high­est point in the United States since 2006.

Gasbuddy se­nior an­a­lyst Pa­trick DeHaan said high oil prices are only part of the tur­moil caus­ing fuel prices to in­crease.

“It’s hard to say why peo­ple are us­ing more gaso­line,” DeHaan said. “I don’t know if it’s be­cause there is good weather in parts of the coun­try or Amer­i­cans are start­ing to drive less fuel-ef­fi­cient cars again.”

The price in­crease isn’t com­ing from re­fin­ery is­sues, he said. Sure, re­finer­ies are do­ing sea­sonal main­te­nance, but prices typ­i­cally still fall this time of year even with those fac­tors.

The com­bi­na­tion of high oil, high de­mand and fall­ing in­ven­to­ries is a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors lead­ing to the high prices.

“There’s a lot of up­ward pres­sure, which is not re­ally typ­i­cal of a nor­mal fall,” DeHaan said.

GETTY IMAGES FILE

If con­sumers are sur­prised by prices at the pump, they can credit ten­sions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia, Iran, Ye­men and Le­banon.

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